Most of our political journalists are more than capable of producing informative, insightful pieces. For instance, Claire Trevett wrote an excellent series of pieces that confirmed John Key had stolen Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’ for his ‘Ambiguous for NZ’ DVD. She researched the legalities of the issue, consulted a musicologist on the tune, brought forward a confession from National, and asked Labour for comment. Solid.
Now, look at this article from Saturday, also by Trevett:
– Bill English repeats his campaign lines with no facts to support them. They are accepted without question. No details on the substantive policies National/ACT wants to implement are provided. There is not even any recognition of the fact that English is providing no substance, just spin. So, one has to wonder if substance was sought.
– no response from Labour is included (and it hasn’t been sought otherwise it would say Labour had no comment). Can you imagine Labour making significant comments and no response from National being sought? No, because it doesn’t happen, except when honeymoon-think undermines journalistic standards.
– no independent expert is quoted backing up or discrediting English’s line. No statistics or other context are provided.
All these things leave us with nothing more than a puff piece, the kind of thing you would get if you asked National’s spin doctors to write it. This a perfect example of how ‘honeymoon’ thinking afflicts the media and shows that it is a media phenomena, contrary to what John Armstrong says. The media thinks there is honeymoon and so they make it true by not carrying out normal journalistic practice, by giving National a baby-soft ride. As Rawdon Christie said on Agenda today, ‘the honeymoon continues’, and it will continue as long as the journos believe it does.
This vacuous honeymoon groupthink undercuts the performance of even our more able journalists. That’s a problem for anyone who wants an informed public.
The really weird and disappointing thing is that long after every honeymoon is over you see media looking back at it with a mixture of shame and confusion. ‘Why did that happen?’, the journos ask ‘it’s embarrassing to recall how we gave them such an easy ride’.
It’s time they faced up to the fact that it is a media problem and the journos’ responsibility to fix.